By Sonya Rehman
In all my piddling twenty-six years, I’ve never found myself in a dentist’s clinic. But recently, my mother thought it’d be wiser to have a general check-up before my departure for grad school this summer.
And so, off I went to Dr. Rizwan, one of the finest dentist’s in Lahore. His clinic, situated in Gulberg has to be one of the most unusual clinics I’ve ever been to (not that I frequent clinics on a regular basis).
With jazz-boy Michael Buble cooing away in the background, fresh yellow flowers set in a massive vase – that sat atop a large sea-blue chest – and patches of warm sunshine reflecting off the walls and floor, I seriously thought I’d entered someone’s living room, rather than a ‘clinic’.
Sometimes when I think of clinics I always imagine walls lined with tube lights, shiny, fake leather couches (in white or beige), polished shoes, sadistic needles, broken weighing-machines, buttoned up, prude-ish white jackets and chits of paper filled with diagnosis and medicine lists in square-ish, peculiar handwriting, that would make even the world’s best handwriting expert gawk in confusion.
But Dr. Rizwan’s clinic was something else. Heck, I could’ve camped out there for the rest of my life. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it, but perhaps for half of my life. Atleast.
After a general check-up (whilst sniffing in the fact that Dr. Rizwan’s gloves smelt like baby milk); I was advised by him to get braces for both my lower and upper teeth. Not that I have buck-teeth, but let’s just say that all those years of sucking my thumb (till I was 11) ‘upset the balance’.
“Good, let’s get you those braces”, my mother had said. But I fought it out. “Look Ma, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to be walking the streets of New York for a year in those steely contraptions looking like Ugly Betty!”
That did it. So it was decided that the braces would be put on hold until I returned, and for the time being, I’d get my teeth cleaned prior to getting my cavities filled up.
The teeth cleaning bit, I was advised, was necessary to avoid the off-shoot of further cavities.
Cool. So the following week, I walked back into Dr. Rizwan’s clinic in my favourite sweats and plopped down onto the dentist’s chair (what a fine invention).
A young and attractive Dr. Sadia was due to clean my teeth, and so, while she put on her milk-scented gloves, we chatted away about New York – with my telling her what a lumbering paindu I was going to be once I landed at JFK International Airport (since I’d never set foot in another country, save for India), and her appeasing me about the fact that the ‘Village’ is going to be a lot of fun and that I’d take to it like a fish to water.
Lowering my chair down, placing a spotlight of sorts smack in my face, and placing tissue paper around my neck (like a bib), I was told to; “Open wide please”.
“GaaaAaA-k-l-aaaAaAaaa”, I said confidently – trying to keep my cool as Dr. Sadia had placed a tube (which hissed and acted like a mini vacuum cleaner) into the side of my mouth.
Wearing goggles, she set to work on my lower jaw with a horridly unsettling, frightening little device that made the most unsettlingly loud “RrrrRrRrrRrRRRR” sounds.
Oh dear, I was in for the long innings. Help me God, I’d thought.
The little drill machine snaked in, out and around, rattling the very core of my lower jaw’s teeth.
And sometimes, it’d scrape just a fraction of my gum. But I persisted and ground my hands together tightly. ‘Gotta be brave, gotta be brave now’, I told myself. In the distance, Michael Buble continued singing in an amorous and lazy fashion amidst the plinkety-plink of the piano.
I wanted to throttle him, or, run into his chubby arms screaming; “Help me, for the love of God jazz-boy, save MEEEEEE.”
“HiiissssSsSsSSsSssSss”, the little tube went. It’d popped out of my mouth. Taking a thin pipe, my mouth was then sprayed by Dr. Sadia. I gurgled. Choked rather.
“I feel like my teeth have just been treated to a mini car-wash”, I told her good-naturedly (trying to ease my frayed nerves).
She smiled and then handed me a pair of goggles. “Wow, futuristic”, I had said excitedly, “um, what exactly are these for though?”
“Just in case the water sprays in your eyes”, she had replied. Okay not so futuristic anymore.
After a few minutes, Dr. Sadia then got to work on my upper jaw. I was compelled to yank open my mouth to make it easier for her, but for some reason, my mouth felt incredibly numb. The ‘puch puch’ kinda numb.
“RrRrrRrRrrRrrrrrrrrrrr” the blasted drill machine shrieked. It slowly made its way to my horrified face. The mini vacuum cleaner in my mouth continued hissing. Michael Buble went on crooning.
‘NOoOooOoOOooooooo’ I wanted to yell as my mind began doing pretty little convulsions. It dug into the crown of my teeth, pulling out anything that came in its way. Beads of sweat clung to my forehead (thought I’d throw that in for good measure), and I plucked away deliriously at my skin.
If I was going to get up from the chair (once it was over) and prance down the road in a tutu, I couldn’t be blamed.
“RrRrRrrrrr”, “hisss hisss hisss”, “gurgle”, “choke”, “sputter”, “RrrrrrRrR”, “mommy?”
And then, everything went blank and I woke up two hours later. No, I jest. There was suddenly, dead silence. “You can gargle now”, Dr. Sadia had said with a smile, pointing to a paper cup containing a pink liquid. “Phewie”, I’d said as I struggled to get up and reach for the cup.
After I was done, she handed me a mirror, “Take a look”.
Looking at my face – which thankfully wasn’t contorted like Regan from ‘The Exorcist’ – I grinned, widely.
What a fine set of teeth, I’d thought to myself, still grinning away at my reflection.
Walking out of Dr. Rizwan’s clinic with a spring in my step, I was told I had five cavities which had to be treated right away.
“You bet”, I’d said – still grinning. As long as they had Michael Buble singing, I’d be game.